THE MOORISH WAR CONTINUED
"Shamed be the hands that idly fold,
And lips that woo the reed's accord,
When laggard Time the hour has tolled
For true with false and new with old
To fight the battles of the Lord!"
Boabdil's Enterprise (April 21, 1483) and Defeat—His Imprisonment and Restoration—The Army
Reviewed and Refitted—The Queen's Labors—An Innovation—"The Queen's
Hospital"—The Count of Cabra's Reward —Plan to Seize the Coast and
Sea—Siege of Velez-Malaga—El Zagal's Attack and Defeat—Velez-Malaga
Taken—Isabella's Devout Joy.
 THAT remarkable defeat in the mountains of Malaga had its likeness in the great Braddock
discomfiture which preceded the American Revolution; and doubtless the procuring cause was
the same—namely, the undervaluation of the enemy when that enemy was defending his
own well-known passes, defiles, and fastnesses.
But this great victory for Muley Aben Hassan, turning the fickle populace of the country
more and more to his standard, made it
evi-  dent to Boabdil and his mother that the young king must do something in the war to exhibit
his own prowess, or he would gradually be stripped of his possessions and power, and
before long lose his crown.
With 9000 foot and some 700 horse, accompanied by his brave old father-in-law, Ali Atar,
who but lately had successfully defended Loja against King Ferdinand, Boabdil led the way
by forced marches through the Vega past Loja, aiming directly for Lucena. As soon as he
had crossed the border he ravaged the country as much as his rapid march would permit,
gathering in horses, cattle, flocks, and grain.
Old Ali Atar was familiar with this kind of work, for he had long subsisted upon Spanish
products that his robber-like forays brought hack, and the vicinage of Lucena was called
his garden spot. Boabdil hoped at this time to surprise his foes; but lie had some
wide-awake cavaliers to deal with. Don Diego Fernandez de Cordova, in command at Lucena,
having received early the news that the Moors were coming toward him in great force, at
once took the usual means, by signal fires, to inform the neighboring towns and villages
of his imminent danger. The Count of Cabra was at Baena when he heard the call of Diego.
With incredible swiftness the quotas were
 gathered in and put on the march, picking up accessions as they approached Lucena. It is
said that in his haste the count forgot his ordinary standard, so that at Cabra, finding
an old, unused flag with the figure of a goat pictured upon it—the former insignia
of that town—he had that unfurled at the head of his column. When all the volunteers
had assembled the force was very small—not more than one third that of his foes.
Boabdil had reached Lucena April 21st (1483), made several bold attempts to break into the
city; but Diego had with great gallantry and energy managed with his small garrison to
make a good defence; so that Boabdil, for the sake of a better camp and to continue the
foraging in which his soldiers delighted, drew off a few miles into the country. The Count
of Cabra, full of ardor, at once determined to seek the Moors and give battle. Diego and
others called his attention to the smallness of his force, and told him that
reinforcements would join him in a few hours from Montilla and other towns; but the count
was determined to fight at once. He feared that a great prize would escape him. Following
his scouts, he ascended a hill, and then saw the hosts of Boabdil. They seemed to be
sitting on the ground and feasting upon their supplies, which were newly
 gathered, the rich fruits of that fertile land. Their light cavalry, the flower of the
chivalry of Granada, was so grouped as to guard well the bivouac. The Count of Cabra
descended upon them like a whirlwind.
Surprised and loaded with the abundance of their booty, the Moorish infantry instantly
took to flight, running toward their own border; but the cavalry of Boabdil, numerous
enough under ordinary circumstances to have defeated the few squadrons of Cabra, were kept
together and held in the position of a rear guard. They stood bravely and fought with
their wonted fury till, at the Genii River, old Ali Atar, their indomitable leader, was
slain. The difficulty of crossing the swollen river would have been great at this time if
there had been no enemy near. Now it was fatal to the Moors. The confusion was extreme;
large numbers of the fugitives perished in the deep swift waters; many became almost
defenceless in their haste, and were slaughtered along the banks. Boabdil, conspicuous
from his mount, had himself fought hard among the bravest. Being forced to a point where
he was unable to effect a crossing, he at last dismounted and hid in some thick reeds near
at hand. But he could not escape, and was shortly after this discovered and forced to
surrender. He was treated with
 remarkable courtesy by the Count of Cabra, and conducted to his own castle at Baena, and,
except for his restraint, was there given all the royal rites of hospitality and kindness.
The appalling news, as is always the case with evil tidings, went with lightning speed to
Loja and to Granada. The sorrow and desolation that had visited Andalusia after the
affairs of Ferdinand's failure and the massacre of the hill," near the valley of Azarquia,
were far exceeded now throughout the land of the Moors.
Their internal divisions and the predictions of their old seer caused a cloud of thick
darkness to hang over them. But the unyielding Ayxa, the mother of Boabdil, never would
despair. She sent an embassy, offering a large ransom, to the Spanish court, which was
then sojourning at Cordova. Boabdil was removed from Baena to Cordova; and as soon as
Isabella returned from a brief absence, under her authority the unfortunate young king was
kindly admitted to the audience chamber and courteously received by the sovereigns.
Hostility—savagery, in fact, and ultra-fanaticism seemed for a time to take
possession of the majority of the counsellors of the court. "Grant the heathen no terms!
Compromise not with the enemies of the Lord!" this was
 the burden of their cry. But Isabella would not listen an instant to such counsel. She
could not think of keeping him a prisoner. Were not the internecine troubles of the Moors,
without the expenditure of money, toil, and blood, so many advantages gained? So Isabella
thought and spoke, and congratu lated Ferdinand and herself upon the fact that they could
at this time show generosity without neglect of duty, and extend it to a humbled foe of
Ferdinand saw to it that the terms were sufficiently exacting. They were, however, not far
in excess of what the sultana had proposed. Boabdil was granted a truce for two years. He
was to return to Granada to hold his crown as vassal to Castile, and, among other items of
easier performance, to secure the free passage of Ferdinand's troops which should be sent
against any refractory Moorish posts that did not recognize his rule. Four hundred
Christian captives were to be liberated and 812,000 in Spanish gold transferred to
Isabella's treasury. His own son and others were agreed upon to come and be held as
Upon these terms the sovereigns sent Boabdil in much state back to Granada. When the
unfortunate young monarch was believed to have fallen beside Ali Atar the whole
Moor-  ish people were his friends. They called up his father's crimes and cruelty, and loudly
lamented his untimely death; but the tide of popularity quickly turned against him when it
became known that he surrendered; and now that he had made terms with his enemy, which
would soon ruin his country, there were at least but few Moors who did not condemn him.
There were, however, a few stanch followers to unfurl his standard, and more still were
bought up by the energetic Ayxa. Mothers seldom desert their sons—almost never in
time of trouble. But it was not long after Boabdil's return and occupancy of the Alcazaba
before his old father, who had gained and steadily held the Alhambra, caused such dreadful
terror and bloodshed that Boabdil, for the sake of peace, agreed to depart from the
capital and go to the city of Almeria, which was still fully loyal to his cause. Ayxa went
with him, but berated him for his want of spirit in giving up for any cause whatever the
capital of his nation. During the home troubles of the Moors, while they were quarrelling
and depleting each other's strength, and while Ferdinand was often greatly absorbed with
other neighbors, Isabella pushed on the war with all the energy she could command. There
were yet in 1483 far more
forti-  fied cities untaken than can be found to-day in all the peninsula. Those repeated raids,
which indeed destroyed much property and interrupted agriculture, were only light wounds.
The strong cities must be taken one by one and held. Isabella, through her active and
effective chief of staff, Don Francisco Ramirez, a man of energy and rare attainments,
reviewed her entire army. Her artillery especially was enlarged and refitted. It was still
clumsy enough and hard to transport, but it was needed to hatter down the thick walls.
Isabella not only secured the funds and a large supply of arms, ammunition, and
provisions, but we find her at the right moment even devoting her mind to practical
engineering. When this department took form she was its head.
After cannon had been obtained, many of them from abroad, and cannon-balls manufactured,
and abundance of powder put in depots, then the problem was how to get these things over
the roads, rough, muddy, and flooded as they were, to the places where they would become
of use. Better roads were constructed or the old repaired; hills were cut through, canons
fined up with trees and rocks, and bridges stretched across frightful abysses. In all
these preparations—in fact, in everything pertaining to the vigorous
prose-  cution of this war, except the actual fighting, the queen bore an extraordinary part. She
placed her court at all times just as near the scene of activity as possible, moving from
place to place as the army was obliged to shift its positions. A regular line of couriers,
like the pony express across the Rocky Mountains, kept her from hour to hour informed of
what was passing at the front. From the sub-depots near her issued from time to time
wagons heavily loaded and placed under convoys whose strength the queen herself
prescribed. Again and again, where she believed that her presence would be beneficial, she
would suddenly appear in camp with her cheery exhortation and help. There was one marked
innovation that she introduced during the year 1489. A number of large tents called the
"Queen's Hospitals" were there after present with her columns of troops and ready for
battles. They were supplied with medicines and attendants and furniture, so that the
wounded might not wait for proper attention and care. It is said that Isabella knew how to
give lavishly and particularly to reward valor. For example, she gave to the Marquis of
Cadiz, who surprised and seized Zahara, the titles of Marquis of Zahara and Duke of Cadiz,
and also the substantial present of the city itself. It is also recorded that
 Isabella's court was temporarily at Vitoria when the battle of Lucena took place. After
his capture of Boabdil the Count of Cabra went to Vitoria to pay his devoirs. The nobility
and clergy marched out to receive him, and as he took his place at the right hand of the
Cardinal of Spain, Isabella came forward to greet him, and seated him beside her at table,
remarking that "The conquerors of kings should sit with kings."
Thus with womanly tact and resourcefulness and more than manly vigor was the war pressed
forward from 1483-87, with its varying fortunes. There was not a month passed in which
some important siege was not progressing. One city after another the Spaniards thus
brought into subjection—Ronda, Zagra, Banos, Moclin, called the "shield of Granada,"
and Llora, named "Granada's right eye."
The sovereigns had indeed picked up the pomegranates of the Moors, having by (lint of the
changing fortunes of war advanced their lines over fifty miles southward, eastward, and
westward. They had carefully put into citadels and garrisons their own soldiers, and
encouraged Christian colonies and settlements, so that the Spanish avenues to the great
capital were now very little obstructed by hostile populations. The queen urged
 upon Ferdinand and her countrymen one more great effort—the seizure and control of
those channels which enabled the Mussulmen of Africa to strengthen and reinforce their
brethren in Spain. To take Malaga and Velez-Malaga and reorganize her fleet upon the
Mediterranean seemed to Isabella to be the final move upon the chessboard of operations.
Nervo says: "In 1487 Isabella, after having obtained the Pope's sanction to use certain
revenues—ecclesiastique—of Castile and Aragon, in person opened up the
campaign." It was on April 7th, 1487, when at Cordova, Isabella, having buckled on his
sword, bade adieu to her Ferdinand for this campaign. With his army fairly well equipped,
he appeared before Velez-Malaga on the 17th of the same month. Situated between Granada
and Malaga, it was deemed wise to subdue that smaller place before attempting to assail or
besiege Malaga itself.
When the beautiful valley which contains the little city burst upon Ferdinand and his
army, they were filled with great joy and hopes of a speedy triumph. The city, strongly
walled and fortified, was in the upper part of the valley—in fact, on the mountain
slope. Far above it, on the mountain crest, was the famous village and citadel of
 Ferdinand took position and made a fortified camp for his army along the slope above
Velez-Malaga, but below Bentomiz. He held the narrow defiles and mountain paths leading to
the city, but he would be in peril should any force more than the strong Moorish garrison
now there seize the crest of the mountain. He had to wait some days for his lum bering
artillery, drawn by oxen. The valley roads could not be worse, and the guns and other
siege apparatus, much scattered, were making not more than three or four miles a day.
Just at this awkward juncture old El Zagal, who since Muley Aben Hassan's retirement and
death had divided the kingdom with Boabdil, emerged from Granada with an army of 20,000
men. Ferdinand had scarcely heard of his setting out when the host appeared and covered
the heights of Bentomiz. It now seemed to the furious old warrior an easy thing to pounce
upon the Spaniards and crush them. But he first endeavored to destroy the slow-moving and
divided sections of artillery. In every effort, however, in this direction he was
anticipated and foiled.
At last El Zagal sent a "Christian spy" into Velez-Malaga to carry a message to his
faithful commander there: "Make a sortie against the Christians! Give me the night
 signal of it, and while they are fighting you, we will rush upon their flank and rear,
dislodge and destroy them." But the shrewd old warrior in vain watched for the appointed
signal. At last, in impatience and fury, he made a move for attack; but Ferdinand's men
were lying in wait. A prolonged, fitful battle worried out the night. At dawn one of
Ferdinand's cavaliers, a little more enterprising than the rest, seized an important
height, and drove the Moslems down the steeps. In the dimness of the morning light El
Zagal's other men thought that all was lost, and his army was taken with one of those
unaccountable, unmanageable panics which come in somewhere in every war. The old man was
shamefully deserted. He scarcely saved his own life by flight, and all Granada was filled
with terror by the scattered fugitives from this field of battle. The people of the city'
arose, and expelling El Zagal, re-established the unlucky Boabdil, that he might enjoy for
a few short days the uncertain fruits of such a public act of the changeable populace.
The brave Rodovan de Vanegas, holding Velez-Malaga, would not surrender, even when he knew
of El Zagal's disastrous affair. "Your artillery," he answered to the repeated summons,
"can never get here; the mud is too deep and the roads too bad." But by
 much labor the artillery began to arrive. No help could reach him now, and the brave
soldier yielded to the entreaties of the inhabitants to seek a lenient surrender. For once
the Spanish king gave liberal terms. The 120 Christians taken from the prison were hurried
off to Cordova. Isabella, as usual, received them with great tenderness at the old mosque
cathedral. As she had heard of El Zagal's sudden move, she trembled with anxiety lest the
"hill massacre," that had befallen her choicest knights in those very Malaga mountains,
was about to be repeated. She had quickly brought out the reserves of Andalusia, old men
and boys, and organized a strong reinforcement. This was already setting forth from the
gates of Cordova when the good tidings came. And, indeed, it seemed to her more than ever
before a victory straight from Heaven.
She and the women of her court were more fervently and devoutly than ever hymning and
chanting praises to Him who sitteth upon the throne of the heavens. The incoming, released
captives added to the joy and to the fervor of their devout recitations.